Yesterday I was very excited to see that the comedian Patton Oswalt had announced his engagement to Meredith Salenger. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t follow the lives of celebrities at all. I’ve made an exception for him. Our spouses both unexpectedly died within 3 days of each other and both of us have processed our grief journey fairly openly. (Of course, his platform is a mite bigger than mine lol)
On the 102nd day of his journey (105 for me) he wrote in a Facebook post,
“I was face-down and frozen for weeks. It’s 102 days later and I can confidently say I have reached a point where I’m crawling. Which, objectively, is an improvement. Maybe 102 days later I’ll be walking.”
I shared that post on my own page because I could connect to that place he was in. No longer frozen, but the crawling was so painful.
Well, it’s been 442 days for him now and it makes my heart happy to see that his heart has continued to move forward, that it has healed and expanded to the place where he can now love another. My happiness for him quickly shifted to indignant anger on his behalf as I began to read the comments under the article
Comment after comment poured out judgment and disdain. It made me sick. I had to stop reading before I gave in to the temptation to rain fire in response to every comment. Instead, I decided to address them here all at once.
So, my dear ignorant, judgmental, assholes, this one is for you.
You aren’t entitled to an opinion. You don’t get to comment on the choices of a widower while you sit happily next to your own living spouse. You didn’t have to stand and watch your mundane morning turn into your absolute worst nightmare. You didn’t have to face the agony of despair and the only person who could possibly bring you comfort had been ripped from your life forever. You didn’t have to stand in the ashes of what was once your life when the sun itself darkened and the very air you breathed felt toxic in your lungs. Go back to scrolling Facebook and keep your ignorance to yourself.
Who gave you the position to judge when it’s “too soon” for a person who has suffered the worst to be able to find happiness and companionship again? It’s been 15 months! How long should a widow sit in isolation before YOU are comfortable enough to release them from their solitary confinement? Because it’s really about you isn’t it? You aren’t actually concerned about the heart of the person who has found the strength and courage to love once more. You’re worried about your own offended sensibilities rooted in old Victorian traditions. Stop pretending you are actually concerned about their “healing.”
And it does take strength and courage. To imply that it is weakness that drives someone who has lost their spouse to choose to love again is asinine. Unlike most, those who have been widowed are hyper aware that everyone they see will someday die. We know intimately that the price of love is pain. So if you see a widow or widower overcome that knowledge and choose to open their heart to that pain once again, instead of judging, you should be celebrating their bravery and fortitude. That much courage deserves a freaking parade.
And another thing. The person who comes after cannot and will not replace the one we lost. To imply that is insulting to the widow, it’s insulting to the new love and it’s insulting to the love who was lost. Earlier I said that I was happy to see Patton Oswalt’s heart had expanded. I used that word intentionally. I say expanded because that’s what widowed hearts do. They expand. One love isn’t moved out to make room for someone new. An addition is built. Just like my love for my daughter was not diminished by the birth of my son, so too, the love widows can have for someone new does not diminish the love of the one lost. The expansion of the heart is part of the grieving process.
We’ve gone through hellfire and lived. We don’t need your negativity in our lives. So please, if what you have to say about a widow or widower finding love again isn’t supportive and encouraging then keep it to yourself. We aren’t interested in hearing it.
Ps. Mr.Oswalt, if this somehow gets to you, from one widow to another, I would like to say congratulations from the bottom of my heart. I am so incredibly happy for you and I hope I am just as lucky someday.
I’d like to take a moment to shout out two of my favorite widow/er writers and their own blogs tackling this subject: John Polo’s “Sit Down, And Shut Up.” and Kerry Phillips’ “Loving Two Men”
If you’ve been touched by my writing or would simply like to support me in this journey you can do so by clicking here.
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Trent you’re a douche. vanessa martinez, could not had said better myself!!! PREACH!!
I suppose I ‘get’ your anger (its far easier than feeling sorrow) on this. But I felt the same way when I saw he was getting married already after his wife’s death (one year is so soon). It screams ‘I knew this woman before my wife died’. I wouldn’t want to be cast aside so easily as someone pointed out. I don’t know what is right for one person or another, but all I thought was “ewww”.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Jewish tradition is to wait “the turn of the seasons”, a year. He’s got that covered. If he’d remarried a few weeks later, well, it would still have been his business, but that would have been at least tacky. Who is anyone else to condemn him for this? I might disagree with him politically, but I wish him personally nothing but the best. My father died of cancer. I had a couple of years to deal with it, which helped immeasurably. His wife died suddenly. That kind of shock can definitely change someone, and it makes a difference in dealing with the situation. How about we wish him and his new bride well and try to make the world a tiny bit better instead of condemning anyone for minding their own business?
Allow me to correct you on Jewish tradition. For a spouse the mourning period is 30 days, not a year. Since my daughters’ mourning period was a lunar year, I artificially chose to wait one lunar year (11 days shy of a solar year) before dating, out of a desire not to hurt my daughters’ feelings, not because of tradition or law.
Thank you for this post, Erica. I am so sorry for your loss.
I’m not widowed, but I have suffered a deep loss; and I know that (unless I die first) more deep loss is likely to come. One of the things you wrote here that I want to skywrite is, “Unlike most, those who have been widowed are hyper aware that everyone they see will someday die.” I wish our culture were able to be more forthcoming and honest about this fact. Your work on this front gives me hope.
p.s. I began to skim a couple of the comments here and cannot. even. believe. people still have the audacity to argue with you on this topic. It’s infuriating.
Great post. I love how you write the heart expands. I’m 26 months widowed and dating someone now 6 months. I remember when my 2nd child was born, how it didn’t diminish the love I had for child number one. This is similar. This man makes me smile again, but that doesn’t take away from the 30 great years I had with my late husband. So true.
“So, my dear ignorant, judgmental, assholes, this one is for you. You aren’t entitled to an opinion.”
Actually, I bloody-well AM.
Not only did I lose the love of my life last year to cancer, a few weeks after our 25th wedding anniversary, but unlike Oswalt, I had spent the previous 9 months caring for her ’round the clock, advocating for her health in every conceivable way, and devoting all of my time to trying to keep her spirits up, and having my heart broken piece by piece as the cancer ate her alive. That’s a bit more of a process than simply waking up to discover that she died.
So, yes — I fucking-well AM entitled to an opinion. And that opinion is this: Oswalt clearly didn’t love his late wife to the degree that I love mine, or there’s no way that he could’ve fallen in love with someone else, just a year after Michelle died.
Love isn’t something that comes along and overpowers people against their will; one has to be receptive to its incursions. And the fact that he was receptive to it within a year of Michelle’s death means that he wasn’t dedicated to the love that he supposedly had for her, nor to her memory, nor to the fact that although he lost her, *she* lost *everything*.
It sickens me the way that so many widowers are willing to gratify their own desires by the most convoluted justifications, and how so many other people leap in to defend those justifications on the most spurious and self-serving grounds (often to expiate their own guilt).
There is a direct inverse relation between how much a man loved his wife and how soon he replaces her, and Oswalt has demonstrated that his love for Michelle was something that he was willing to push aside in order to “be happy again”. No doubt the dynamic behind that is closely related to today’s astonishingly high divorce rate: because the pursuit of happiness — even when it entails ditching what was supposedly special about a previous relationship — is paramount.
RCH: As one member of the widowers club to another, I’m sorry for your loss. However, you miss the point of the original post altogether. Clearly Erica is telling the non-widowed to be careful about throwing around their opinions about something that cannot possibly understand. She is not encouraging us widowed folk to rush into new relationships.
Being a widow(er) is hard. The last thing any of us need is judgement and commendation coming from those of us who personally know the exquisite pain of losing a spouse/partner. If not involving yourself with another person is what you need to do to move forward – great, more power to you. But just because you’re particularly adamant about your opinion, doesn’t mean you get to harshly judge other people who feel differently.
You have no idea how Patton felt about his wife, and to suggest that you loved your wife more than he did just because he remarried, is naively judgmental and a little bit hateful.
In fact, your whole post oozes anger and hostility. If you’re not currently seeing a therapist to help with your grieving, I strongly suggest it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hugh Henry wrote “you miss the point of the original post altogether. Clearly Erica is telling the non-widowed to be careful about throwing around their opinions about something that cannot possibly understand.”
No, I didn’t miss the point at all: unfortunately I’m no longer a member of the non-widowed group, so Erica’s prohibitions don’t apply to me. Oswalt’s experience *can* be understood, by people who are going through what he did, or have already. People like me. If the topic was postpartum depression, menopause, or “driving while black”, then yeah, I would be foolish to think I could understand. But I know firsthand the experience of having lost a wife whom I described in the very same terms Oswalt did.
As you may know, widowers are at a greatly elevated risk of suicide, substance abuse and risky behavior — all pathologies rooted in the trauma of loss. Widowers are also at risk of getting remarried far too soon, and often they are motivated by the desire to displace their grief with with externally provided comfort, and frequently by someone who resembles their late wife (as is certainly the case here). It’s substitution, which psychologists understand to be another form of pathology.
You wrote “You have no idea how Patton felt about his wife, and to suggest that you loved your wife more than he did just because he remarried, is naively judgmental and a little bit hateful.”
Nor do YOU know “how Patton felt about his wife”. For all you know, he wished her dead for the entire time they were married (I certainly don’t believe that to be the case). The ONLY person who knows what Oswalt felt about his wife is Oswalt himself, so unless you’re his alt, your opinion of his relationship is based upon what he *said*, and *wrote*. And that is precisely what *I* base *my* opinion on as well: his many professions of her being “the love of his life”, of him being devastated by her death, etc.
Can a person go from making those sorts of professions of a unique and undying love that they’ve lost, to dating again within a year, and remarried after 18 months, if his late wife truly *was* the love of his life? I don’t see how. And I doubt that any recent widower who professed the same degree of loss that Oswalt did can be psychologically healthy enough to approach a new marriage as an equal partner within 18 months of his late wife’s death, without bringing some serious unresolved issues with them.
As for “judgmental and hateful” — I realize that “judgmental and hateful” is the new “racist” in terms of accusations intended to delegitimize another person’s opinion, but it doesn’t work on me. Judgment used to be an integral part of society, and it helped prevent social travesties such as this woman, who “fell in love with” her late husband’s best friend, just 4 weeks after his death: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1260766/How-soon-soon-love-widowed-It-took-Michelle-weeks–callous-just-lucky.html
Would you also say that criticizing her behavior is out of bounds? If not, then our disagreement is one of degree rather than of kind.
I completely agree with you. It’s been almost 11 months since I suddenly lost the love of my life, and I cannot even THINK of another man, much less actually date one. I haven’t even gotten to the point where I wonder if it’s respectful or disrespectful to my loved one – I just don’t wonder AT ALL. I’m sad that I’m alone, but I’m not lonely – I just miss HIM. No one else will do. I don’t know how people replace the “love of their life” so quickly.
Thank you, Valerie.
Your comments bring up an important point: too many people treat the speed with which widow/ers become romantically involved again as if it’s something beyond their control — as if “Oops — I don’t know what happened! There I was, minding my own business, and then somehow I ended up falling in love again!”
And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this thread, love isn’t some mystical force that compels people to do things against their will; they have to be receptive to it, to allow it. If they’re receptive to it with another person while they’re still in love with, and committed to, their spouse while that spouse is alive, that’s a problem (one we label “infidelity”). It would be evidence that they really *aren’t* in love with, and committed to, their spouse since it would require devaluing their relationship with their spouse in order to accommodate a second love. For those of us who were in committed relationships with the people we were in love with, this principle guided our behavior and our decisions.
I get why so many widow/ers (like Oswalt) jump back into being receptive to falling in love. We’re not just grieving the loss of what we had, and the person we had it with, we’re also — it has to be said — traumatized, and trauma leaves us vulnerable and seeking relief. It’s hardly surprising that this would lead many widowers to think that the relief they desire could be provided by a substitute for their dead wife. Just as in a committed and loving marriage, opportunities arise for infidelity, and husbands frequently think that another woman could provide relief from tedium, fears of their loss of virility, etc. But any decent husband will not allow that to happen.
What’s being suggested — even mainstreamed — in threads like this, is that a widower’s desire for relief from his situation justifies his being open to falling in love with another person, whenever it happens to occur. What does that say about the regard we supposedly had for our late spouse, that they can literally and figuratively be replaced so readily?
There is a well-attested correlation between the 13th month after being widowed, and remarriage. That suggests to me that many widowers are deliberately delaying doing what they had intended to do (remarry) long before then. To me, that devalues and denigrates their late spouse, and indeed, love itself.
The thoughts of it are confusing. But if it happened, most would not let love slip away. Nobody ever got an award for mourning. It’s personal
Lets not forget that statistically all male widows generally remarry within one year while female widows take up to five to eight years. Men maybe just need women more. Or are more romantic. Or stoic. Or bury their feelings. Or simply understand a basic truth. You can love more than one person in your life. You can have more than one really close friend, and your other friend shouldn’t get jealous or insulted. That’s what children do. I read a lot of these high horse comments on here about how amazing and deep and true their love is. And if you find new love, you must not have really loved your previous partner or lover. Wow. What a waste of life just proving to others how stubborn and deep you are. I am going to deeply love my late wife for forever, and can not wait to be with her again in the after life. But I’m not gonna sit around waiting to die living off of memories. I’ll die of heartbreak and self destruction. Already almost died myself twice. Not only am I ready to live again but it is a nessesity. Sure it takes strength to just be alone and forever pine after our lost love, living off a memory and the old world, but it is a stubborn stupid strength that is unnecessary. It takes strength to smile, to breath, to press forward. And to love another and find acceptance with all that life has dealt. Honor of the dead??? The dead are dead. And if in heaven will only wish peace and love with fullness and joy of spirit and of fullness of life. There is no couples or jealously or worry or judgements or guilt coming into or out of heaven. Everyone is forgotten after 200 years for sure. Including celebrities and all your acts of honoring the dead and loyal love of the dead. My wife visited me from the afterlife 11 days later on Father’s Day while I was fully awake and sober and know what I felt. One last tight hug and communication to my mind, body and soul. I felt heaven like an umbilical cord through her. It was all divine love like nothing experienced here. And my only problem with meeting anyone new is all the insane selfishness, rules, pride, arrogance, lies, pompous pseudo wisdom, and the pain masked as righteous indignation. My late wife would puke on most of all these bs comments and ideas of love. Which is just another reason to miss her terribly.
I also had to laugh at this line:
“You aren’t actually concerned about the heart of the person who has found the strength and courage to love once more. ”
What bullshit. It takes considerably LESS strength and courage to fall into another relationship than it takes to go on being a widower. That anyone would even suggest the opposite with a straight face is ridiculous.
In the 19 months since my wife died, more than one desirable woman has made her interest in me clear. It would be the easiest thing in the world to allow that to happen, and to let another woman relieve me of some of my loneliness and sorrow, and to enjoy many of the same things that I miss about my wife. What “strength and courage” is required to simply give-in to temptation and comfort? NONE.
I’ll tell you what takes strength and courage: being true to one’s marriage vows (whether a man’s wife is alive or dead). Honoring her memory. Propriety. Demonstrating to those who cared about her that the man she’s left behind considered her to be the love of his life. Trying to carry on her wishes and her goals, now that she can’t. Setting a good example to the subsequent generations of what “fidelity” means. THAT takes strength and courage. Falling in love again? Nothing could be easier or more self-serving.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Those of us in this situation have to find what works best for each of us. What works or is easy for one may not be the same for another. I have been widowed almost 4 years after being married for over 31 1/2 years. For the first 2 years or so after my wife passed the idea of being in a new relationship was completely foreign. It still would not be easy, but I’m open to the idea. I still miss my wife every day, but I’m grateful every day for our love. That will not be diminished by whatever does or does not happen in the future. I wish you peace and happiness.
Love always wins in some way. I hope you have found your additional love! I agree that the heart expands, love expands, one has to learn to let it expand. Most naysayers are for themselves. I’m not a widow. I’m divorced and feel that this holds true for them as well. I don’t get angry because my ex husband has a new girlfriend, I get irritated that I don’t get introduced to her when dropping off the kids and seeing her for the first time. I can’t change him. I can only change myself. Hugs to you and prayers you find your additional love.
I appreciate your good wishes, but no, I haven’t “found my additional love”; indeed, I’m not looking for it. I still have the love that I have shared with my late wife for 27 years. I didn’t somehow stop being in love with her the day after she died. While she was alive and our love was constantly being reciprocated, it was the most important thing in my life, and something I would never have jeopardized by being unfaithful. And it wasn’t her fault that she died; I know she wanted nothing more than to stay alive, with me. So how could I view that set of circumstances and then think “Oh, but now I can just expand my heart to include someone else” and not feel that I was betraying what we had spent 27 years building and carefully tending, avoiding anything that could risk damaging it?
Surely if an “expandable heart” is an option, then polyamory would be far more successful of a lifestyle than it turns out to be. Instead, the anecdotal evidence and statistics show that poly relationships tend to be less deep, and more fractious than monogamous ones.
I can see how “enlarging the heart” might work after divorce, since one might feel justified in making that decision, and whatever negative things about the other person, or flaws in the relationship can be learned from and something (hopefully) better can be constructed. But I just don’t think that it works in the straightforward way people would like to think it does after the death of a beloved spouse — at least not without exacting heavy costs upon memories, innocence, self-respect and a host of other things.
I’m just dismayed by the way that widow/ers take their circumstances — being sad, lonely, lost, etc. and, wishing to return to the condition they were in before — see remarriage as the cure for what ails them, and presume that it would come without negative consequences. The near-unison chorus of people encouraging and enabling them is predictable, but that doesn’t make them right. All too often, I think there’s a self-serving element of mutual-enabling that goes on (which I suspect is the case with this blog entry) — where a person is, consciously or subconsciously, thinking that if they make a statement defending “finding love again”, then if or when they do likewise, they’ll be less likely to be subjected to the same criticism.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Very well said! ( Yes I am a widower)
This widow agrees.
I think it is important to note that polygamous relationships have not been well researched. In fact, they’ve barely been researched at all, and what research has been done often is fairly positive.
As for anecdotal evidence, I have had many poly friends/friends in open relationships, and I am in one myself. We’ve been with our primary partner (and in some cases secondary partners) for years or even decades, and things are going pretty well for many of us! I’ve been with my primary partner for several years now, we are very much in love, are living together, and will one day in the nearish future get married.
Thank you so much for your blog entry, “A Widows Rage Defense…” Reading it did a lot to alleviate my own feelings of guilt as I have suddenly and unexpectedly found myself falling in love after the tragic death of my wife, partner for 26 years by a drunk driver on June 1, 2017, leaving me with our two children (ages 13 and 12). ( read about Krista here, my Victim Impact Statement at the sentencing hearing of her killer on Nov 17, 2017) http://www.xenmcguire.com/2017/11/sandstrom-mcguire-family-victim-impact.html
I never planned on loving again – nothing could ever replace the true love Krista and I shared in my heart. So when in December I started up a conversation with an old friend of ours from college, a woman with whom I had no contact since 1992 and yet we started falling in love – I was wracked with guilt in myself and worried about what others will think.
The other issue was that only on December 1, 2017, I revealed to the whole world what my wife had known since 1991, and I have known since my earliest memories (I was born in Feb 1970). I am transgender and this was knowledge that only a select few had known, and Krista and I had managed to make our love and marriage work with me pretending to be a guy for all of these years. ( http://www.xenmcguire.com/p/xenia-warrior-bassist.html )
Its probably just my own imaginative hypersensitivity But I cannot help by think to people who aren’t me, never witnessed first hand the deep love and conversations Krista and I shared; aren’t privy to my daily crying bouts, my joys, my dialogues with my children so that they can share with me their feelings, hopes, dreams — Love…..
My revelation that I am trans was probably the first major “shock” in overturning the world of outsiders — I assume the less intelligent probably initially thought this was some “coping with grief BS” rather than recognizing, as you have known, that this has been in the works for quite some time – 48 years in the making…
… And then after coming out, resuming an old friendship having long conversations with her and with each day and passing word discover such a deep unspoken understanding and connection — The sudden and unexpected spark where I do not have to explain myself- and yet continue open, honest, authentic communication — having received this from no one else.— Knowing full well that my expanded heart and unplanned love for her will probably be perceived as a double whammy.
I’ve already anticipated the old, “Have you thought about your children,” BS.
What I have come to realize is that I am unique. I have specific experiences, I am practiced in resilience and communication, and able to tap into my own generated inner strength that those without that skillset will struggle to comprehend. And realizing this, I have discovered that when it comes to my parenting, the lives of my children and my own, the advice from those who are neither Transgender nor Widowed tends to be pretty bad, and not very in depth or thoughtful.
— If I am finding new Love, and if my kids don’t like it, they will tell me about it and we will talk about it. But they also know that I will continue with new love, not reject it. As a parent my job is to help guide them with resiliency as well as human understanding and empathy – the Sandstrom-McGuire kids will never shy away from emotional challenges and they have already proven themselves to be resilient yet never afraid to show me their vulnerability. I love them.
Sending you and your family Love and Strength
LikeLiked by 1 person
Frankly, people are only entitled to their opinion because we live in a place where it is OK to share your opinions. I am not religious, but even in the bible it says to not place judgement on others. If by sharing your opinion, you’re casting your own judgements and negativity on to other people, you are 100% wrong. This is the fucking internet where anyone can say any fucking filth they damn well please and get away with it. So, while you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to share your opinion with others if your sole purpose is to put the other down. What people seem to forgetting is that everyone can handle their grief and stress in different ways and what one “cannot fathom” does not mean that others have to follow suit. Before you spout off your garbage for the rest of the world to see, try following the Golden Rule for a change. The world has enough trash in it. It’s time to start cleaning it up.
RCH – Projecting how you feel others should feel and saying things like someone didnt love their wife like I did because I tended to their needs while they suffered with cancer is absolutely toxic. You don’t know a fucking god damn thing about the person, yet you inject your fucking values into their life like what you say is Gospel. Sorry pal, just because you say something is so, doesn’t make it so. Go mourn your dead wife, but let those who want to enjoy the one life they have to the fullest, as I’m sure their dead spouses would want from them too, have their peace and happiness.
Scott wrote “This is the fucking internet where anyone can say any fucking filth they damn well please and get away with it. So, while you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to share your opinion with others if your sole purpose is to put the other down.”
Apparently, the fundamental contradiction between those two sentences escaped you. In case you *still* don’t get it: yes, “anyone CAN say any(thing) they damn well please”, but yes, I AM “entitled to share my opinion with others”, no matter what it might be. Deal with it.
You continued “You don’t know a fucking god damn thing about the person…”
And you’re wrong there too: because I know what Patton Oswalt *said*, which — unless you’re his alt — is all *you* know about him too.
But let’s test your claim: all we need to do is change one variable and see if it still holds up.
1. A man and his fiancee stand in front of a justice of the peace, friends, family and the media, and each takes a solemn oath to be faithful to each other for the rest of their lives.
And the the man posts a sex tape on-line of himself with a woman who wasn’t his wife, made after he got married.
Would you object to someone pointing out the contradiction between his words and his actions? I don’t see how.
2. A man describes his wife as being the “love of his life”. She then dies, and he eulogizes her and describes himself as “heartbroken”.
The very next day, he marries another woman.
Would you object to someone pointing out the contradiction between his professed emotions and his actions? Again, I don’t see how.
So how does Oswalt waiting almost precisely 12 months before he hops back into the singles pool, and remarrying within 18 months, differ *in kind* from that scenario? It doesn’t; it only differs in *degree*. Apparently, you think that the timeline that Oswalt chose is fine. I don’t. The assertion that you’re somehow “right” is impossible to prove, as is the assertion that I’m wrong.
The problem with your false equivalency RCH is the same one that faces all widows and widowers. That false equivalency being that dating and marrying after a spouse or partner has died is the same thing as marital infidelity. The vow is pretty clear – “until death do us part”. The only basis for righteous indignation in your argument is that married people should be “true” to someone who has died. It is a convenient moralism for people who don’t have a dead spouse or the hard realities that come with either an abrupt or prolonged death for the person they love – but that’s why they are calle opinions. And some opinions are informed and educated and some opinions are just emotional baloney that have no basis in reality – but they make people feel comfortable and superior.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Sorry, Richard, but your declaring something to be a false-equivalency doesn’t make it so. I’ll ask you directly: if a person remarried the day after their allegedly beloved spouse died, would that meet your approval? If not, then as I said, we disagree in degree, rather than in kind. But I doubt I’ll get an honest answer to my question.
You wrote “That false equivalency being that dating and marrying after a spouse or partner has died is the same thing as marital infidelity.”
Other than the letter of the law, and our current lax societal values, that’s pretty much what it is: infidelity. What is “fidelity”? Being true (or faithful) to another person. Why do you presume that “’til death us do part” means until *one* of the two spouses dies, rather than for both? In what way does their death somehow absolve one from remaining true? Only in our current conventions. Some (Queen Victoria, Mary Todd Lincoln, Coretta Scott King, et al) saw the value in remaining faithful even after death. Indeed, where financial security wasn’t an issue, that was the norm for widows until fairly recently. And as I wrote above, the failure rate of remarriages among widow/ers suggests that the old way may have been better.
You go on to claim “It is a convenient moralism for people who don’t have a dead spouse or the hard realities that come with either an abrupt or prolonged death for the person they love – but that’s why they are called opinions. And some opinions are informed and educated and some opinions are just emotional baloney that have no basis in reality – but they make people feel comfortable and superior.”
Feel better, getting that off of your chest? Fine. Now pay attention: I *DO* have a dead spouse. And as I wrote in comments above, not only did she die too young, but I did nothing but care for her for 9 months while cancer consumed her. That’s a lot more than was required of Oswalt (which is a good thing). So, far from my views being a “convenient moralism for people who don’t have a dead spouse”, they are, in fact, the lived experience and ethical elaborations of a widower who lost the love of his life and his wife of 25 years, at about the same time that Oswalt’s wife died. So your attempt to delegitimize my views fails.
I know people who choose not to remarry and I know people who choose to remarry. Often it is cultural. Sometimes it is because of the quality of the previous marriage. Your choice is just that – your choice.
Does the New Testament say anything about remarrying after the death of a spouse?
Certainly the Old Testament recognizes remarriage for widows and divorcees. It is only a Kohen (priest) who is barred from marrying a divorcee, and a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) who is barred from marrying both divorcees and widows. (Leviticus 21.)
I became a widow in 2008 after 34 years of marriage. My husband was 55 when he died. I was 56.
I met my present husband in 2011 and we married in 2013.
I am so happy in my life with him and so grateful that I have another chance at love.
I gave my husband a year after ge died before I considered having a relationship. But I will tell you if it happened a month after he died, it would not have stopped me. I don’t know how long I have on this earth. So your opinion means nothing.
As a person who lost her husband to suicide and who for a time was more angry at him then sad, who could have jumped into a relationship because of the anger, can say after 8 months tried to date only to find out I just was not ready to give any piece of my heart away to anyone. A person to “date” maybe because the company was nice.. but that’s it. But as I said in my previous post it is to each their own. Totally… but I do feel strongly that the person that has passed on would not what you living with loneliness.. sadness will always be there in your heart but it should not define how you live. As said life is to be enjoyed you go to that grave soon enough… and to be arguing about it seems… well seems off… no one has lived in any persons shoes…. just my thoughts…
“As said life is to be enjoyed you go to that grave soon enough… and to be arguing about it seems… well seems off… no one has lived in any persons shoes”
If I’m arguing for anything, it’s for the notion of a widow/er who was fully in love and committed in life, being consistent in their regard for their lost spouse after death. That seems to me like it should be a noncontroversial statement.
If a person is completely in love with their spouse, that shapes their behavior. They won’t trash-talk them, they won’t be unfaithful to them, they won’t blow them off, and so on; their behavior naturally flows from their regard for that person. The notion that one can go from that state to basically replacing them within months or a year or two of their death is, if anything, inconsistent with the regard they professed for them in life.
I would like to hear answers to two questions (whether from you or anyone else):
1. Is it possible to be fully in love with two people at the same time? If so, why not do it at the same time as one’s wife is still alive (i.e., polyamory)? If not, how is it possible to fall *out* of love with the spouse they loved, simply because they died?
2. Imagine if a widow/er could get into another romantic relationship, or remarry — but couldn’t have any sexual or physical intimacy, and couldn’t benefit from the other person’s skills, efforts or assets (for men, this would mean that she wouldn’t be cooking, cleaning, helping care for their children, or anything else for them). How many widow/ers would opt to get into such a relationship or marriage? My guess: very few.
That, to me, suggests that the primary reasons that men, in particular, get into another relationship after the death of their wife, are self-serving. Men are intrinsically “fixers”. When we identify something being wrong (“I’m sad, I’m lonely, I miss sex, I miss her cooking”, etc.), we look for a way to “fix it”. The easiest way to do that is to get remarried. It’s about *replacement*. To me, that both diminishes the value of love (particularly the love that they felt for their late wife) and it demonstrates that re-coupling has more to do with desires and needs (a utilitarian approach) than it does with simply being in love with someone.
As someone who has had 948 days of grief of suddenly out of the blue losing my amazing loving beautiful wife at age 36. Grief is hell. Pure sorrow and hell. And that is with all the faith and love in the world for Gods will. I try to date and to find a new wife or lover. And it is nearly impossible. No one compares. Not that I’m expecting to find the same. But it has to be love. I know for a fact my late wife would want me to move on, find love and live life as it’s the only one we got. Not waste the rest of my life pining for someone physically gone. To a place where everyone loves everyone. She would find it maybe romantic but utterly moronic to spend the rest of my adult life alone as a struggling single parent. The judgements of staying true for forever till you die is all you and you alone. It’s different for everyone. But as a widow or windower the truth is you are single and free to find another. By God’s standards, biblically, by law, and most everyone else. Especially by your spouse whom if had true love for each other would only want to see you happy and live a full life. No jealousy or ownership. Grief , extreme loneliness and sorrow can destroy and kill a person. Which is not good for the children of the loving parents. If a person married a new person the next day, I’d understand that now. Although I’d consider it a decision in shock and maybe not a good idea. I could understand and sympathize. Everyone is different, to expect everyone to follow all the same rules makes one a completely ignorant fool. And anyone who makes any judgements on a widow/er is a cold a hole that should go disappear on an island.
This is for RCH and his post from 1/16/19.
It’s been awhile, but I responded to one of your blathery notes about six months ago. Your reply made it clear that you were more interested in cramming your opinion down everyone’s throat than in an intelligent exchange of ideas with other widows and widowers, so I let it go.
Fast forward to the present, and my inbox notified me that you were still at it. I debated about responding and decided it wasn’t worth it, until I read your most recent reply. In it, You finally revealed, very succinctly, the hole in your argument. You wrote: “The notion that one can go from that state [being in love with their spouse] to basically replacing them within months or a year or two of their death is, if anything, inconsistent with the regard they professed for them in life.”
Much like a presidential tweet, just writing something doesn’t make it true. Let me state that again because it’s the key: “just writing something doesn’t make it true”. Back in school, I remember English assignments where the lessons dealt with determining the difference between fact and opinion. What you have been sharing lo these many months is an opinion, not a fact. And I believe that has been the point that most people have tried to get you to understand.
Let me try it another way. “Vanilla ice cream is the best flavor” is an opinion. “Vanilla ice cream is my favorite flavor” is a fact (assuming the writer is being honest about their favorite ice cream flavors).
Using the subject at hand, the statement: “People who remarry after losing a spouse they professed undying love for didn’t really love their first spouse that much”, is an opinion that you have been trumpeting as a fact ad nauseam. Quite simply, any English teacher would tell you that you are wrong. However, the statement: “I loved my spouse so much that I could never consider another partner”, can be a fact. It may be your truth (and more power to you for following your principles), but that doesn’t mean that it’s a fact for anyone else.
I have no problem affirming your decision to to not pursue a relationship, for whatever reason you choose. Why are you unable to offer the same affirmation to other widowed folks who find new love? Why do you need to run these people down? We should be supporting one another, not trying to quantify levels of love and affection we each felt for our loved ones who passed. What you don’t seem to understand is that the capacity for love is not a finite thing. The love one feels for a deceased spouse can remain unchanged and ever present, while a heart/soul is able grow and to love another.
Which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong? I don’t believe there is any earthly way to determine that, or if there is even an answer at all. However, I would maintain that if each one of us is being true to our own hearts respectively, then maybe we’re both right.
Thus far, I have (mostly) maintained a respectful tone. There are a few snarky comments that slipped through, and I do apologize for those. I’m usually better at keeping things civil. However, I must now be rather blunt, I am one of those widowers who (surprisingly) found myself in a wonderful new relationship. You may have the guts to suggest that I didn’t love my spouse as much as I claimed to via the internet, but if you did it face to face I would have to beat the ever loving shit out of you. I may have a wonderful new partner, but the intensity with which I miss my wife, and the love that I have for her remains just as strong and as potent as ever. For anyone to suggest otherwise is the greatest hurt they could inflict upon me.
“Your reply made it clear that you were more interested in cramming your opinion down everyone’s throat”
It’s not possible to cram an opinion down anyone’s throat. Is watching the news having the opinions of newscasters “crammed down your throat”? Hardly. The internet is full of people’s opinions — yours, mine, and everyone else’s. Simple question: how is what I’ve posted any more “cramming opinions down others’ throats” than what *you* are doing right now? The intellectually honest answer is that “it isn’t”. You’re stating your opinion, and that’s fine with me.
You wrote “Back in school, I remember English assignments where the lessons dealt with determining the difference between fact and opinion. What you have been sharing lo these many months is an opinion, not a fact. And I believe that has been the point that most people have tried to get you to understand”.
You fundamentally misunderstand the nature of debate, which is to take a position and support it with evidence. And this assertion can be readily tested to see if it can be falsified: “Could it be a consistent proposition, if a man professes to be completely in love with his wife, she dies, and he marries another woman *the next day*?”
Well? What’s your answer?
If you say “yes”, I’ll know that you’re talking about something quite different than the “being completely in love with one’s spouse” that most people understand.
If you say “no”, then you can state what time-frame seems appropriate to you, and that can become an issue to debate. But you can’t just hand-wave these questions away because you don’t like them. So, there is no hole in my argument.
You continue — “Why are you unable to offer the same affirmation to other widowed folks who find new love? Why do you need to run these people down? We should be supporting one another, not trying to quantify levels of love and affection we each felt for our loved ones who passed.”
I disagree. You can find support wherever you want, but you do not have the privilege of being able to say that NO ONE ELSE IS ALLOWED TO STATE A CONTRARY VIEW. Support cannot be compulsory. Other than an appeal to sympathy fallacy, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between saying that it’s verboten to criticize a widower for remarrying in a day or a year, and saying that one can’t criticize a man for cheating on his wife. There are plenty of men who are cheating on their wives, who might ask “why are you criticizing a man who was trapped in a marriage with a woman who is significantly less hot than she was when I married her, and has now been able to find happiness in the arms of a woman who’s 20 years younger?”
You go on: “What you don’t seem to understand is that the capacity for love is not a finite thing. The love one feels for a deceased spouse can remain unchanged and ever present, while a heart/soul is able grow and to love another.”
Yeah, I hear that a lot, especially from widow/ers who have moved on. But being *able to* grow and love another isn’t something that a man who still loves his wife, who is going through the grieving process, who is psychologically damaged by her death, and who is likely to be coping with a host of other things, is going to be able to do in one day. Or in one week. Or in one month. In a few years? Possibly. In a decade? Probably. There IS a difference between those time-frames, and therein lies my objection.
But the *reality* is that men rush into it. This is patently obvious from the statistics that show *most* widowers who remarry, do so in 12-18 months — a completely arbitrary time-frame — but in fact, there is a dramatic statistical bump at precisely 13 months. This shows that widowers are *waiting* to remarry. It also can be inferred that they were *waiting* to allow themselves to date, which also suggests that they were aware of the potential for the appearance of impropriety, if they did so sooner.
A few weeks after my wife died, I began a 10 week, weekly support group for grief and loss. The therapist who ran it told me something interesting: the number one question she gets asked by new widowers is “How soon is it OK to start dating?” I dare you to tell me that such a question can come out of the mouth of a man who completely loved his wife who was alive a month before.
“Which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong? I don’t believe there is any earthly way to determine that, or if there is even an answer at all. However, I would maintain that if each one of us is being true to our own hearts respectively, then maybe we’re both right.”
Again, psychologists would likely disagree. And equally importantly, *society* disagrees (see my point above about widowers who try to avoid the appearance of impropriety). But norms are constantly being challenged, and almost always by people who have a personal interest in undermining those norms. I still believe in the place of societal norms having a corrective influence upon behavior. We’ve already seen how the undermining of norms has affected things like the success and longevity of marriages (with now, half of all marriages ending in divorce) and with unwed motherhood (very rare until the 1960s, and now depressingly common). I think it’s important to push back against these self-serving tendencies, and the seemingly inexorable slide into the pit of “do whatever makes you happy”.
“You may have the guts to suggest that I didn’t love my spouse as much as I claimed to via the internet, but if you did it face to face I would have to beat the ever loving shit out of you.”
Oh really. Well, I live in San Francisco; if you ever find yourself in these parts, and you really need me to say that to you in person, feel free to send me a PM, Mr. Keyboard Warrior. Just remember that “do” and “try” are two different things, and you have no idea who or what you’d be coming up against. So let’s leave out the “I’m gonna kick yer ass!” bluster, shall we?
“I may have a wonderful new partner, but the intensity with which I miss my wife, and the love that I have for her remains just as strong and as potent as ever. For anyone to suggest otherwise is the greatest hurt they could inflict upon me.”
First, it’s not possible for anyone’s suggestion to “inflict great hurt upon you”. Faddish notions of words being “weapons”, or people being harmed by being “misgendered” or whatever, are part of the fallacy of fragility being promulgated in academia right now. The reality is that words can’t hurt you. You might *let* them make you feel bad, but that’s a different matter.
Second, is it possible for a man to be fully in love with two women at the same time? Psychologists and sociologists generally agree that it isn’t; there will always be a hierarchy. And polyamorous relationships are generally less deep and less likely to succeed than committed monogamous ones. In his book “Our Inner Ape: The Best and Worst of Human Nature, the primatologist Frans de Waal writes “The intimate male–female relationship, a ‘pair-bond’, is bred into our bones. I believe this is what sets us apart from the apes more than anything else.”
Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, who’s studied monogamy and fidelity for about 40 years, writes “Monogamy is not an invention: The brain regions that are involved in monogamous romantic love are associated with some of our most basic brain regions—the ones associated with fear and addiction; the ones that orchestrate hunger and thirst.” Regarding polyamorous relationships, she writes “We have zero evidence that any of these arrangements are stable. There have been zero studies that show that these things are sustained long-term.”
So my assertion that it’s impracticable to be fully in love with a late spouse *and* fully in love with a new one, isn’t just my opinion; there are both scientific data and anecdotal success rates that support it.
Man. Give it up. It is clearly sounding more and more like you have a lack of love because your guilty conscience is up to something. And now it’s time to shine and make up for the unbearable person you were and still sound to be. Being in love is loving the bad and good. And missing it all when they are departed. You definitely have a stink about you where you had to find someone truly special to put up with your nonsense day in and out and intolerant nature. You are scientifically right. You sound as fun as an open casket funeral for sure. You are right for you. And it sounds like you barely lucked out at finding anybody at all in this life. And obviously had learned nothing. Sure it’s easy maybe not caring so much about any of the self serving wants and needs in life when you’re an old codger who does everything for himself and his dick don’t work anymore. If I was in my late 50-60’s I wouldn’t care so much about anything either. But guess what. It’s been almost 3 years now and I can and have done everything by myself anyway. I don’t need anything. But like all people I need companionship and that is the bases of all true love. I have that with friends. And guess what also? I have more than one really close friend. Would my wife be ok or me be ok with another wife or husband in the mix? Sure. Because our love was and is that strong. It runs deep with no jealously or confusion. I have developed friends closer to live for me than my own parents or sister. I don’t need anyone around to cook or clean or be a new mom to my little girl at all. I got it covered. But yes I can very much fall in love again while still loving my late wife. That’s not hard at all. Because we were friends, lovers, companions, and want the very most of everything for each other. That is real love. Honoring dead meat or a memory is personal, but not a requirement of love. Me and my late wife talks lots about our previous lovers and had a great many laughs about our previous adventures. She did not like some of my past lovers not because of jealously or disrespect but simply because she felt they weren’t good for me and I dodged a bullet. Where as her past had a lot of heartbreak and her being taken for granted a lot and I found that sad and unfortunate and I felt special that I was able to see all her greatness and not get sidetracked by trivial things. We were soul mates for sure and perfect for each other. I probably will never come close to find that again but I most certainly am open to the possibility as I am still stuck on this plain. As a young widower. And it’s utterly foolish to pass up a possible love interest as I’m too obsessed with brooding over the dead. Being lonely and sad and angry about the whole ordeal is not an ideal environment for a growing little girl. We talk about her mom all the time and all of my loving fond memories for her. But she still looks at me sad and says “I miss her. And know you do to and I don’t want to see you sad all the time.” So simply. No one can ever know the future. I may end up alone for the rest of my life while you may end up meeting someone later in your life that puts up with your ignorant nature. Maybe she’ll see it as saving the world and taking one for the team, who knows. I have not found any kindness at all in this world since her death. And if anyone that has gone through the hell of grief can find that, more power to em and they certainly don’t need to hear any of your belittling soap box drivel. You and your deep love is so amazing you should lock that up with yourself in a cave somewhere. And do the rest of us a favor.
“It is clearly sounding more and more like you have a lack of love because your guilty conscience is up to something…And it sounds like you barely lucked out at finding anybody at all in this life. And obviously had learned nothing…you’re an old codger who does everything for himself and his dick don’t work anymore.”
Wrong on all counts. But it’s curious how you went ad-hominem, and hard. That’s usually the sign of someone who’s taking things unnecessarily personally for some reason.
“We were soul mates for sure and perfect for each other. I probably will never come close to find that again but I most certainly am open to the possibility as I am still stuck on this plain.”
I have never suggested that there’s anything wrong with that. My ENTIRE objection is to Oswalt’s timeline, what it suggests about his regard for his late wife, and the chorus of mutual-enabling going on here to justify it. And you’ve conspicuously skirted that issue time and again.
“No one can ever know the future. I may end up alone for the rest of my life while you may end up meeting someone later in your life that puts up with your ignorant nature.”
I’ve already had that explicitly offered to me by a few different women who know me (attractive, intelligent women, who also knew my late wife, and knew what a special relationship we had). But I’ve taken that option off the table, for at least a few more years; perhaps forever. Frankly, I doubt they’re missing much; I’m not much fun to be around.
“And if anyone that has gone through the hell of grief can find that, more power to em and they certainly don’t need to hear any of your belittling soap box drivel. You and your deep love is so amazing you should lock that up with yourself in a cave somewhere. And do the rest of us a favor.”
First, all you have to do to never read anything from me again, is to just deselect that checkbox that says “notify me of new comments via email”. Problem solved.
And second, as I’ve repeatedly said, there are substantive differences between a recent widow/er “finding kindness”, and them hooking-up, or getting into another romantic relationship within a day, week, month or year, of losing their spouse. You seem to be determined to deny that such a distinction can exist, or that social scientists have studied it, or that there are pathologies connected with it, or that there are valid societal criticisms attached to it, and so forth. You seem to want a strict laissez-faire policy where recent widow/ers can do anything they want, whenever they want, just so long as they get something out of it. I understand that. But I’m neither required to agree with you, nor to withhold my opinion to the contrary.
“I have not found any kindness at all in this world since her death.”
You’re not going to want to believe this, and you’re certainly not going to thank me for it, but here goes: I’m very sorry to hear that. Truly. It’s bad enough to lose one’s soulmate, to have to deal with grief and pain and all of that, but to not have people be kind to a widow/er is unjust. And of course, you lump me in with that group. Well, it’s not quite that simple, but it’ll probably be easier for you to just go with that. I’ve at least had people be kind to me, and for that I’m very grateful. I hope that situation changes for you. In the meantime, I think I’ve exhausted any interest in continuing this exchange. Feel free to get in the last word.
If you were an “old codger” you would still care. I was 56 when my husband died. I was married 34 yrs.
I gave myself a year, then I dated 15 mo later. I met my present husband 3 yrs later and we are in love and married 5 years now.
Older people want love and companionship. Even if a mans “dick” isn’t working. It’s not about that. Love isn’t planned. It happens.
You’re correct about two things. (1) Though your intransigence does insight me to anger, I shouldn’t have threatened to beat you up. That was unnecessary hyperbole. Upon reflection, you’re not worth it. (2) My last sentence should have read “… try to inflict.” Kudos to you.
Initially I thought about including a sarcastic conclusion along the lines of: “breathlessly awaiting your pseudo-intellectual, thud-like response indicating you’re more interested in winning an argument than finding truth”. I thought such overt sarcasm might cause some self-reflection on your part. But then I realized from your all your previous replies that that was not going to happen, so I cut it.
In retrospect, I should have left it in. I would have looked like Nostradamus.
At this point, I’ve reached the conclusion that your opinions are no longer worth my time. Goodbye.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You sound like a sad man.
Thank you for your blog post. I lost my wife after a four a half year battle with cancer just over 15 months ago. We had an incredible marriage. During those four and half years, I had so many people say that they couldn’t imagine what I was going through. I would tell them, I don’t want you to, that isn’t something you need to do.
After my wife died, I felt like every action I took for being judged. I started dating someone 11 months after my wife died and a couple of weeks ago I got engaged. Although I have had a lot of support. I have also been subject to some intense and vile judgement, criticism and abuse.
I found you blog really helpful and wanted to thank you for it.
Well said, Erica. All those judgemental f–kers…. You watch someone you love pass and then see how YOU feel.
You’re a great woman and a great writer, Erica.
As the child of a widow who remarried less than a year after the death of her spouse/my father- I do feel I have a right to say “Mom, is isn’t normal or ok that you met my step-Dad at my father’s funeral. It scares me that you are able to move on from love (and I believe you felt deep deep love) so rapidly.” In this case I truly am worried about my parent and her healing. I’m not sitting comfortably, not having to experience grief while she suffers. I am entitled to an opinion about what goes on in my own family. Here it is- it’s creepy and disturbing that my mother married a man she met at my father’s funeral. It is a very negative statement about both of their attachment styles. I hope that anybody who is or was a child in a similar situation can know- you’re not crazy. They’re crazy.